Import Joy Burke is back in Ballarat, fresh and keener than ever to make an impact on the basketball court.
Burke is preparing for her second South East Australian Basketball League season with Ballarat Rush.
As far as the 26-year-old is concerned, she and Rush have unfinished business.
While this is a common phrase in sport, they are more than just words for the Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) international.
Burke has only known Ballarat for a relatively short while, but she cannot emphasise enough how much at home she feels in the city.
“There’s something about Australia that draws you to it. It’s not too different to the US.
“It’s easy to fit into the culture.”
She said it was never easy arriving in a new place and it had taken a while for her to find her feet in Ballarat last year after a season with the Bendigo Spirit in the WNBL.
Burke, who was born in Taipei and grew up in the United States, said it had been whole new experience, joining Rush as a marquee player and the high expectations the role carried.
It did not take too long though before she began showing her class, going on to average 15.1 points and 12.4 rebounds a game. Burke was ranked third in total rebounds and second in blocks in the SEABL.
Burke is much more relaxed this year. Not only is she back in familiar surrounds and confident Rush has what it takes to play finals, she is also coming off the first decent off-season break she has had.
She spent extended time with family in Dallas, Texas, and in Taipei, where she helped her younger brother TJ settle in readiness for a professional basketball career.
It was during three months in Taipei that Burke started to do some ground work on a vision she has to develop basketball in that part of Asia.
“I’ve been thinking about life after (playing) basketball...the contribution I can make.”
Burke said while there were some programs already in place, she was keen to develop opportunities overseas for young basketballers to not only improve as players, but broaden their education and life experiences.
“I’d like to see closer basketball ties between Asia and Australia.”
Burke has already had preliminary discussions with basketball and business people in Taipei as a starting point, and broached the idea with various parties in Australia.
She believes exchange programs could be set up at all levels of the sport, beginning at grassroots in communities such as Ballarat.
Burke said right now the US college system provided one of the few opportunities for young players in Asia to development their game outside the region, but this was not always an easy system to get into.
Rush opens its SEABL season against Geelong at Geelong on Friday, March 31,
This will be part of as doubleheader with the Ballarat Miners.